by Colin Smith
Alan J. Otway has become the first to declare as a candidate in Morinville’s Town Council election coming up in October.
“I have been a vocal participant on many of the issues the elected and administrative bodies for the town have dealt with and are facing for the future, and I have decided it is time to put my mouth where our money is,” he said
A veteran businessman, Otway has been a resident of the community since 2015. He grew up in Port Coquitlam, in the Greater Vancouver area and has been married to “the girl next door” for 47 years. They have three children in Morinville and the Edmonton area and three grandchildren.
Otway began his working life in gas stations, worked as a grinder and overhead crane operator in a steel mill, and also in manufacturing.
Then he started work as a maintenance person with McDonald’s Restaurants, the beginning of a 35-year career with the company that saw him rise through all training, supervisory and management positions and graduate from its Hamburger University. He capped that with a stint as a franchisee of the Lacombe McDonalds from 1997 to 2002.
“Certainly the business challenges of my McDonald’s tenure immersed me in project and infrastructure planning, budgeting and accountability for financial management,” said Otway.
“Working with teams, understanding the value of contribution and the efforts of every single person was something I experienced every day. Most importantly, understanding the accountability to the customer who paid my way is ingrained in me.”
Retirement never having taken, Otway established a business consulting business that he is now in the process of winding down. He recently began working part-time in a music store in Edmonton, reflecting musical interests rekindled after 35 years.
Otway has also been involved in a variety of volunteer efforts over the years and currently serves on the executive of the Morinville Chamber of Commerce and with the Rotary Club of Morinville.
Otway said that while his dealings with the current Council and Administration have been positive, he sees a need for change.
“I was surprised in 2017 when the election provided what was essentially an acclamation council,” he said. “I don’t think a repeat does a service to the residents. The process needs full participation to work, and I’m concerned that younger voters are becoming disillusioned at all levels.”
Growth is one of the major priorities that need to be addressed, believes Otway.
“I feel there is a greater opportunity for both business and residential growth in the town,” he said. “The pandemic has created a groundswell who are contemplating getting out of the urban centres. We need to ensure our planning and priorities meet this.”
He added that increasing taxes on current business people cannot compete in providing revenue with an increase in the tax base itself.
Otway feels a focused approach to community amenities is required to keep new residents in town and build Morinville’s reputation to attract more.
“New parks without, without quality of upkeep on the current ones, don’t work,” he said by way of example. “We need quality before we have quantity.”
Otway is also calling for increased support by the Town for local service groups, which he thinks will have an important role to play coming out of the pandemic.
Asked about the Town’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, Otway is hesitant to comment as an “armchair quarterback.”
“While I may have disagreed with some decisions, I do not have the details of what was mandated or recommended by province or feds,” he said. “And I understand the decisions were never easy, and were never going to please everyone. I do believe the team did the best they could at the time with the information they had.”